Peoria Unified School District is in the process of staffing teachers for the opening of schools for full in-person instruction, Sept. 21 for K-2 and Sept. 28 for grades 3-12.
Chief Academic Support Officer Kendra Bell said the deadline for families to choose virtual or in-person instruction for the rest of the semester is Sept. 11.
“We are collecting this data so that we can appropriately make the changes parents have requested and can staff accordingly,” Bell said.
The most recent health data indicates the district can skip a hybrid model and move directly to full-time in-person instruction, according to the district’s return to school plan.
Maricopa County recommends the following benchmarks be met prior to offering any in-person learning:
Director of Research Mike Maas said all three categories have decreased over the past ix weeks.
Cases per 100,000 in Peoria Unified geographical boundaries have declined from 142 to 22. Hospital visits due to COVID-like illness have declined from 7% to 2%. And the percentage of positive tests have gone down from 12.1% to 4.2%.
Mr. Maas said the decreases have allowed the district to skip a hybrid model and move directly to full in-person instruction, according to the district’s return to school plan.
He said Arizona has done well in flattening the curve and PUSD reflects those numbers.
However, moving forward, there could be volatility in the category of positive tests, he said.
“If you don’t get as many tests then each test becomes more valuable,” he said. “The reduction of testing will impact that number so I could see it fluctuating.”
The district will host open houses as well as meet and greets prior to students’ first day of school but dates have not yet been scheduled. The district also is preparing a parent survey for feedback on the return to school plan, which will be sent out soon.
Ms. Bell said if a student continues in the virtual setting, K-8 children for the most part will continue to have live lessons with online teachers, who do not have in-person students.
However she said high school will look a little different with teachers who will have in-person students and some fully online students, who will be able to connect with their teacher via office hours and other options.
“Students who will remain virtual this semester will transition to a more asynchronous platform, which means a little more independent,” Ms. Bell said. “So we are working to determine what are some of those tricks our teachers can use if, in fact, they are teaching within the classroom and have a handful of those kids who are participating virtually. That blended model will be of value to us.”
Although students will return to in-person instruction, school will not look like it has in the past.
Shawn Duguid, chief operations, safety and risk management officer, said teachers have been undergoing professional development and receiving online resources to prepare for the return, and will be asked to disinfect their classroom throughout the day. He said custodial staff will thoroughly disinfect each evening.
Water fountains will be replaced by water bottle filling stations, where students must use their own bottle, and school officials will be tweaking arrival and dismissal procedures.
“We are still under a countywide mandate to wear masks, and our site-level administrators are working on creative ways to give students mask breaks throughout the day,” he said.